New whale species discovery off Florida?


This video is called Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera brydei).

From Wildlife Extra:

Possible new whale species could be the world’s most endangered

A new species of whale may have been discovered off the coast of Florida. Scientists previously thought that the group of around 50 whales living in DeSoto Canyon in the Gulf of Mexico were a [sub]species of Bryde’s Whale (pronounced ‘brooda’).

However, new genetic testing indicates that they might in fact be different species, and if so that would make them the most endangered whale on Earth.

The new testing has identified that the whales could be a distinct subspecies of Bryde’s Whale, or they could potentially be a new species altogether.

The DNA sampled in the tests also suggests that there were previously many more of the whales. “It’s unclear based on the genetics exactly when [the decline] occurred,” says Michael Jasny, Director of the Marine Mammal Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), as reported on Mother Nature Network.

“It’s possible humans were involved in the decline, through whaling or industrial activities. There’s a suggestion in the published paper that oil and gas activity might have led to contraction of the range.”

DeSoto Canyon, where the whales live year-round, is adjacent to Mississippi Canyon, where the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred in 2010.

Testing carried out on whales in the area after the spill showed high levels of toxic metals, and it is suspected that the new whale species in the Gulf would also have been affected by the incident.

Jasny, who recently petitioned the US government to list the whales as an endangered species, believes that the whale needs protection from local environmental stressors, including shipping noises and the widespread use of seismic ‘airgun’ surveys for oil and gas exploration. The airguns have been banned in the canyon, but continue in nearby areas.

“Sound travels much farther in seawater than it does in air,” Jasny explains. “We know noise from seismic surveys travels particularly far and can have a large environmental footprint. Great whales are especially vulnerable.

“We know that airguns can destroy the ability of whales to communicate, hundreds of miles or in some cases even thousands of miles from a single airgun array. We know it causes great whales to cease vocalizing, and that it can compromise their ability to feed.

“It’s hard to imagine how this population — or possibly this species — would survive without protection.”

Along with other conservationists, Jasny hopes that the species will be listed as endangered, as this will afford it further protection. However the US Fish and Wildlife Service have a backlog of endangered species, which will mean a long waiting period for adding the whale to the list.

Should it be decided that the whale will be added to the list, it will then go to the US Endangered Species Act, which could take two years to process.

Bahamas, built by bacteria from Saharan dust?


This video says about itself:

Wildlife of Exuma Island, Bahamas – Lonely Planet travel video

Visitors to sparsely populated Exuma, a remote island in the Bahamas, can expect a close encounter with sharks and iguanas.

From New Scientist:

Bahamian paradise built by bacteria using Saharan dust

13:40 28 July 2014 by Flora Graham

The Bahamas may have been created by bacteria thriving on minerals in dust from the Sahara desert, 8000 kilometres away.

In this NASA satellite image from 2009, it is possible to see how the many islands of the Bahamas are actually the highest points of distinct areas where the sea is shallow and turquoise.

These turquoise waters mark the top of the Bahama Banks – underwater columns of coral reef limestone more than 4500 metres tall that have formed over the past 100 million years. It was thought that tiny plants and animals generate the vast amounts of carbonate that make up the towers, similar to how coral reefs are formed. But the surrounding sea is poor in nutrients, so what would have sustained them is a mystery.

Now researchers including Peter Swart from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Florida are showing that photosynthetic cyanobacteria may actually have done much of the construction.

Cyanobacteria are involved in the precipitation of calcium carbonate in the sea, but they would have needed an enormous amount of iron to do their work. This could have been provided by the dust that blows across the Atlantic from the Sahara.

There are characteristic traces of iron and manganese in recent carbonate sediment on the banks, pointing to their Saharan origin. So the team suggests that the Bahama Banks are being built up by cyanobacteria and may also have been in the past.

The results of this research are here.

Reddish egrets, what do they eat?


This video from the USA is called Crazy Reddish Egret dance hunting for fish, Marco Island, Florida.

From Waterbirds in the USA:

Comparisons of Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) Diet During the Breeding Season Across its Geographic Range

Abstract

Although the prey of Reddish Egrets (Egretta rufescens) generally consists of shallow-water, euryhaline fish species, rangewide differences in breeding season diet have not been examined. Furthermore, the relative proportions of the two Reddish Egret color morphs vary from east to west across the species’ range. Color morph may influence foraging efficiency, but variations in prey across the species’ range and between morphs is undocumented.

By examining boluses from Reddish Egret (n = 109) nestlings, prey species proportions were compared between morphs, among regions and among colonies within Texas. Between regions, prey species and proportion of species differed widely; however, fish species with similar life histories were selected across the Reddish Egret’s range (Bahamas: 100% sheepshead minnow (Cyprinodon variegatus); Texas: 85% sheepshead minnow; Baja California Sur: 49% American shadow goby (Quietula y-cauda); Yucatán: 64% Yucatán pupfish (C. artifrons).

Within the Laguna Madre in Texas, significant differences in prey species were not detected between morphs (F(1,61) = 1.36, P = 0.224); however, prey mass by species differed between colonies (F(1,60) = 2.68, P = 0.010). While our results only pertain to Reddish Egret diet during the breeding season, this study increases our understanding of Reddish Egret ecology and provides initial diet information across the species’ range.

Female Bachman’s sparrows singing, new study


This video from Florida in the USA is about a singing male Bachman’s sparrow.

From the Southeastern Naturalist in the USA:

An Unusual Song-like Vocalization Produced by Female Bachman’s Sparrows (Peucaea aestivalis)

Abstract

We describe a new female vocalization for Peucaea aestivalis (Bachman’s Sparrow) that may represent a type of female song. The vocalization has characteristics that are similar to the “excited” or “flight” songs that male P. aestivalis produce, and similar song characteristics can be found among other members of the genus, including one congener for which female singing is common.

Two marked female P. aestivalis were observed producing the vocalization as well as four unmarked individuals that were paired with territorial males. A recording of one of these unmarked individuals collected in 1989 is similar to the vocalizations observed for marked females. Field notes collected at the time the recording was made suggested the “odd song” was produced by a female, and we provide a sonogram of this new vocalization based on this recording. The vocalization appears to be rare and may be difficult to link to external stimuli and social function.

Save rare Florida panthers from Big Oil


This video from the USA is called Rescued Florida Panther Kitten.

It says about itself:

20 February 2014

See photos of him as he grows: http://www.flickr.com/photos/myfwcmed…

Video: Day 1 – 1/23/14 – A single male kitten is discovered in the den of FP195. The 7-day-old kitten is cold (hypothermic) and listless and shows signs of hypoglycemia. FWC panther biologists determine the tiny 1-pound kitten will not survive in this state without intervention and that it’s best chance for its survival is if they rescue him. The biologists take the kitten to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida (ASH) in Naples, where veterinarians and staff perform life-saving measures.

Day 2 – 1/24/14 – FWC panther biologists visit UCFP205 at the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida (ASH) the day after his rescue to assess his condition. UCFP205 improved greatly and was responding as a healthy 7-day-old panther kitten should but still required 24-hour care. Biologists and veterinarians are pleased with the progress the kitten has made and are optimistic about his survival.

Week 2: Biologists and veterinarians are pleased with the progress the kitten has made and are optimistic about his survival.

Florida residents can support conservation efforts like the rescue of this kitten by purchasing a “Protect the Panther” license plate at BuyaPlate.com. Fees from license plate sales are the primary funding source for the FWC’s research and management of Florida panthers.

For more information on Florida panthers, visit www.floridapanthernet.org.

Full story: http://myfwc.com/news/news-releases/2…

Want to see a super cute updated video? Check out Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo‘s video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofr-Y7…

From the CREDO Mobilize site in the USA:

Protect Florida Panthers from Big Oil

To: Fred McManus, Chief, Groundwater and Underground Injection Control, EPA

With as few as 100 Florida panthers alive today, we can’t allow additional threats from Big Oil and its machinery. I urge the EPA to deny the permit to drill a new, unneeded injection well less than one mile from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.

Why is this important?

As a professional nature photographer, I have witnessed firsthand the leading cause of panther deaths in Florida—being struck by vehicles (72%). Not long ago, I had the heartbreaking experience of coming upon a Florida panther kitten that had been killed by a car. My very first instinct was to reach out and pat her lifeless body which was left strewn across the centerline of the road. As I did that, I came to realize that her mother was calling out to her from some brush not far away. I knew then that I needed to do more than just photograph Florida’s wildlife if I wanted it to endure. I knew I needed to take action to protect Florida panthers and protecting them from Big Oil and their machinery is part of that.

Florida panthers number barely over 100 in the wild and can’t afford unnecessary, new threats. Yet, the state of Florida has issued a permit for the construction of a new oil and gas waste disposal well in prime habitat for the endangered Florida panther. This well would be placed less than a mile from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, and would bring with it hundreds of truck trips that could harass or kill endangered panthers, pushing panthers closer to the brink of extinction. Just this year, 12 panthers have been killed in Florida putting the state on path to exceed the average of 17 panthers killed annually by vehicles.

Not only would this well increase vehicle traffic, it could potentially contaminate the ground and water Florida panthers rely on.The waste that will be injected into this well could be very toxic. No one knows exactly what is in the waste because Congress exempted oil companies from a federal hazardous waste law back in the 1980s. We should not entertain any plan that might bring new toxic threats to these already-beleaguered cats.

Additionally, the Texas company that is applying to drill this well is already in hot water over another well in the state of Florida. It has been fined $25,000 for acting outside the scope of the permitted activity at the well site. In short, they’ve already been accused of breaking the law once–why give them another chance while putting highly-endangered panthers at risk?

Please urge the EPA to block the construction of this well and prevent further threats to Florida panthers, their habitat and clean water resources needed by both humans and wildlife.

How it will be delivered

In person if a meeting is possible. If not, by email.

You can sign the petition here.

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Young loggerhead turtles, new research


This video from the USA is called Loggerhead sea turtles hatching. Sebastian, Florida.

From Wildlife Extra:

Young turtles seek warmer climes

March 2014: New study shows where young loggerhead sea turtles disappear to during their ‘lost years’.

Once baby turtles have successfully hatched and made the risky journey to the sea they are rarely seen until they have grown till 40cm, between seven and 12 years later. Yet what happens to them during this period scientists call the ‘lost years’ has remained a mystery until now.

To solve the mystery a team of scientists, led by Katherine Mansfield of the University of Central Florida, attached solar-powered transmitters to 17 turtles collected from nests along the south-east coast of Florida. The team reared the turtles in the laboratory until they were 11-18cm long before releasing them in the Gulf Stream off the Floridian coast.

They were then tracked for between 27 and 220 days as they travelled distances from 200 to more than 4300km. The scientists found that they all headed north and remained within or close to the Gulf Stream and tended to travel in clockwise direction around the circular North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre currents.

Some turtles however did move out of these Gyre currents into the centre; an area called the Sargrasso sea. The team suggest that this could be linked to the seasonal drift of Sargassum, a type of macro-algae that floats in large mats and to take advantage of the habitat they offer, in particular the warmth the mats trap at the water surface close to them.

For young turtles, staying warm is of upmost importance. Warmer temperatures help their skeletons grow quicker, making them increasingly less vulnerable.

Therefore the team suggest that where these young turtles headed could have been closely linked to where they could find warmer habitats to boost their growth so that once they are large enough they can return to the coast much less vulnerable than when they left as hatchlings.

“Going with the Flow” or Not: Evidence of Positive Rheotaxis in Oceanic Juvenile Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta) in the South Pacific Ocean Using Satellite Tags and Ocean Circulation Data: here.

Three new turtle and tortoise books for kids encourage adventures: here.

Israeli team designs prosthetic fin to save turtle: here.

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